The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Saturday November 12, 1994
Post game cleanup was almost over and Tristam stood in Greg’s room watching a pair of headlights back out the driveway. The rest of the Magnificent Seven had already left. “Warren’s Dad has a nice car.”
Greg hefted his milk crate of D&D books into the closet and closed the door. “Really? I can never tell. I’m not much of a car guy. How long before your Mom gets here?”
“Want some lemonade?” Greg walked in front of him to lower the blinds and close the drapes.
“How about some cookies?”
“God no, I couldn’t eat another cookie if my life depended on it.”
“Be right back.” Greg said.
Alone again, Tristam let his eyes slide over the walls of Greg’s room, they were as crowded with pictures as the rest of the house; some religious, some vacation, and one picture was of Greg and his two friends from years ago. The girl on Greg’s left was skinny with dark hair and a friendly smile. The boy on Greg’s right was tall for his age and had to stoop over to be in the picture, his hair was sandy blonde, he seemed to be looking somewhere else as the picture was being shot. It always made Tristam a little sad to look at that picture and to realize that one of those kids was dead now and the other one locked up. Tristram turned his attention to the computer that sat in the center of a sagging wooden desk with a printer off to the side. The Amiga was turned on, a flock of flying toasters flapped across the monitor’s screen. Books and papers were stacked everywhere.
Tristam paused at one of the papers, it was a letter, his eye caught by the strange little cartoons drawn in the margins- a crowded landscape of demonic shapes and crucifixions. He recognized the artwork; it had been all over the news for months.
It read “...the other prisoners make fun of me and try to do worse. I try to turn the other cheek but I have been forced to defend myself several times. I don’t think the guards or the doctors care, not really. Pray for me, pray for them. Does not the Bible say that even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away? Perhaps the Lord has placed me here for a special reason, perhaps like Joseph I will be aided by a kind jailer...”
“I get about a letter a week.” Greg set a glass of lemonade down on the desk.
Tristam blushed, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean-”
Greg raised a hand, “No biggie, if it bothered me to have someone see them I wouldn’t have left them out in the open.”
“Oh, ok” Tristam took a swig of lemonade and glanced out the window, “Do you write him back?”
“When I have time.”
“I would think you would hate him,” Tristam’s eyes went back to the photograph of Greg with Jeff Hayes and Janice Tillman.
“Sometimes I do hate him.” He leaned on the desk, “But that’s not what Jesus wants us to do, he wants us to forgive our enemies.”
“I don’t believe in Jesus,” Tristam turned his attention back to the window. His mother was late picking him up; no big surprise there.
“I know. We’ve had this conversation a lot.” Greg adjusted his glasses, “Sometimes I think you protest too much. Maybe you’re just angry at God and that’s all right. You’re only human.”
“Take a look at the world, heck just take a look at our school. Where’s God’s love there? Its a fairy tale we tell ourselves to get through the night.”
“Considering what you’ve been through this year I can see how you would be bitter but remember it wasn’t God that caused it. It was you and all the other kids. You have to admit there isn’t a lot of ‘Love your neighbor’ going on among the student body.”
Oh yeah? What about Monique and Evan? Tristam thought and then regretted it.
“Getting back to Jeff. He’s scared and he’s alone in a mental institution for underage murderers,” Greg explained, “I like to think that if I can help him with what he’s going through at the Hogan Institute then maybe somehow Janice and all the others didn’t die for nothing. Does that make sense?”
“He’s alone because he killed his parents.”
“Everything happens for a reason Tristam, sometimes we can’t see why but if we submit ourselves to God’s will everything will come out right in the end.” Greg stared hard at him, “Do you want to pray with me?”
There was a flash of headlights and the beep of a horn. “That’s my Mom.” Tristam drained his lemonade and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his coat, “I gotta go. Great game.”
“See you later.” He called as he headed for the door. He bounded down the steps and climbed into the car.
His mother gave him a sheepish look, “I was watching a movie on HBO. I hope you didn’t wait too long.”
“No.” he stared at Greg’s house as the car backed out the driveway. “You were just in time.”